Archives For rhetoric

Author Information: W. Derek Bowman, Providence College,


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I am gratified to learn that Frodeman and Briggle and I are in greater agreement than I realized. In particular, it seems we agree that many contemporary philosophers are already engaged in wide ranging forms of outreach and engagement both within and outside the academy. We also agree that a discussion of the history of philosophy in general requires nuanced analysis, and I look forward to reading their more nuanced account of Socrates in Socrates Tenured. Finally, I agree that the important element of our remaining disagreement over Socrates is primarily a matter of philosophical substance. Nonetheless, my historical interpretation of Socrates is intended precisely to raise those substantive issues.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Nathan R. Johnson, Purdue University, and Damien Smith Pfister, University of Nebraska-Lincoln,

Johnson, Nathan R. and Damien Smith Pfister. 2013. “‘Ecologizing’ Berry’s Computational Ecology.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (4) 7-9.

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Please refer to: Berry, David M. 2012. “The Social Epistemologies of Software.” Social Epistemology 26 (3-4): 379-398

David M. Berry’s “The Social Epistemologies of Software” can be profitably read in a number of ways: as a rich explanation of how the hyper-reflexivity of networked software underlines the intense sociality of computational knowledge formation; as a careful account of social software at the cusp of pervasive computing and the internet of things; as an effort to publicize the ironically similar phenomena of “web bugs” and “lifestreaming;” as a first step in theorizing what he calls “compactants,” the “computational actants” that monitor behavior, geolocation, affects, and more; and as a warning about the under-appreciated normative dimensions of screenic representations and the computational care of the self.

It is hard to argue with the premise that software’s influence is increasingly ubiquitous. Similarly, the notion that scholars and citizens ought to turn their critical faculties toward code is similarly unimpeachable. If, indeed, “code and software [have] become the conditions of possibility for human living, crucially becoming computational ecologies,” then we must take them seriously (Berry 2012, 379). Berry’s hope is that more critical attention to code and software will expose how contemporary social epistemologies of software are constituted and thus enable “intervention, contestation, and the unbuilding of code/software” (Berry 2012, 393). Though the “techniques needed [to understand code/software] are still in their infancy,” they will necessarily require a multidisciplinary effort (Berry 2012, 392). Continue Reading…

Author Information: John Lyne, University of Pittsburgh,

Normative Functionalism and the Pittsburgh School: Table of Contents

Lyne, John. 2012. “Having ‘A Whole Battery of Concepts’: Thinking Rhetorically About the Norms of Reason.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (1): 143-148.

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The first part of this paper’s title alludes to the view of Wilfrid Sellers that having a concept requires having “a whole battery of concepts.” This has recently been described by Chauncey Maher (2012) as one of the shared assumptions of the “Pittsburgh School,” an important aspect of which is its commitment to “normative functionalism.” The second part alludes to the view that rhetoric works within cultural norms, as well as within the norms of reason, and that these have a complicated relationship to one another. The relationship between those two halves of the title are what I want to examine in this paper. I do so from the vantage of being physically located one floor up from the Pittsburgh Department of Philosophy, in the Department of Communication, and intellectually located somewhere at the very porous border between the norms of cultural expression and the norms of reason. However far my sensibilities may diverge from those of my philosophical colleagues, I take comfort in the fact that we all share the same elevators.

The rhetorician’s view of the battery of concepts, and of normative functioning as well, is one that presupposes fluidity rather than fixity. Broadly speaking, it shares with inferentialism a pragmatic framework. The rhetorical perspective is one that places emphasis on latitude and repertoire, including stories, lines of argument, and “scripts” for common types of interaction. On this view, to understand the way that concepts and norms bear upon judgment, one must consider how these are invoked and interpreted in variable ways, according to context, purpose, and audience. Rhetorical discourse is one of the inducements to navigating through the normative world. The academic student of rhetoric (hereafter “rhetorician”) is inclined by occupation to see judgments as something potentially and perpetually up for grabs, capable of veering one way or another, and subject to the influence of what Aristotle called “the available means of persuasion.” In what follows I want to lay out what I see as the implications of these starting points for thinking about what it means to be rhetorically situated within a field of norms, with a battery of concepts, and rendering judgments. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Derek G. Ross, Auburn University,

Ross, Derek G. 2012. Reply to Zoltan Majdik on “Ambiguous Weighting and Nonsensical Sense” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 1 (5): 13-15.

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I greatly appreciate Zoltan Majdik’s thoughtful reply to my article, ““Ambiguous Weighting and Nonsensical Sense.” Majdik’s consideration of the commonplaces I discuss, common sense in particular, offers an alternative perspective to my explanation of how these commonplaces function in the knowledge- and decision-making process. While we agree on my point that “environmentalism needs to make sense based on our held-in-common beliefs” (p. 123), Majdik notes that my view of the prevalent ‘common sense’ approach does not provide “an entry point for intervention and action” in relation to environmentalism (p. 4). Toward this point, and others, I offer clarification. Continue Reading…